Author: Audrey Driscoll

Writer, gardener, lapsed cataloguer, and author of the Herbert West Series.

Echinops ritro

My Tough Plants #5: Globe Thistle

Tough plants often have common names that suggest they are weeds. Globe Thistle is no exception. Real thistles are prickly, deep-rooted weeds (although some are quite attractive). Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro) shares some of their qualities, but escapes true weediness.

This is a plant I can recommend without reservation to anyone with a dry garden. In moist soil it would grow weak and floppy and need staking. It prefers full sun but blooms well enough in my garden with only four hours of direct sun. Deer don’t eat it. Sometimes aphids appear on the developing flower buds, but can be washed off easily by spraying with water. The flowers look good for several weeks and may be dried if cut at their peak. To prevent uncontrolled self-seeding, it’s best to deadhead carefully before the flower heads shatter.

More information about Echinops ritro can be found here.

The flowers are indeed globe-shaped, about the size of golf balls, and a metallic blue in colour. I’ve seen them described as similar in appearance to the medieval mace, but in 2020, a different comparison is inevitable. A fellow blogger alerted me to it in the comments to this recent post.

Echinops ritro closeup
THE flower of 2020?

Globe thistle mingles well with other plants in the garden, especially with grey-leaved, drought-tolerant ones such as Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum). In the dry, warm days of late summer, the foliage starts to morph into shades of yellow and rusty brown, which is somehow appropriate.

Echinops ritro and Helichrysum italicum
Globe Thistle and Curry Plant

Here are a couple of other plants that look good right now

Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum) in Chinese egg jar
This Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum) has done very well this year. Unlike the globe thistle, it prefers moist soil and is happy in the Chinese “egg jar.”
Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) in bloom
The starry, pure white flowers of Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) freshen up the scene in the late summer garden.

The photos in this post were taken on August 21st and 29th, 2020.

New Book: Liars and Thieves by D. Wallace Peach

I’m delighted to announce a new book by the gifted and prolific author D. Wallace Peach: Liars and Thieves (Book One of Unraveling the Veil)

Behind the Veil, the hordes gather, eager to savage the world. But Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, is untroubled by the shimmering wall that holds his beasts at bay. For if he cannot cleanse the land of life, the races will do it for him. All he needs is a spark to light the fire.

Three unlikely allies stand in his way.

A misfit elf plagued by failure—
When Elanalue Windthorn abandons her soldiers to hunt a goblin, she strays into forbidden territory.

A changeling who betrays his home—
Talin Raska is a talented liar, thief, and spy. He makes a fatal mistake—he falls for his mark.

A halfbreed goblin with deadly secrets—
Naj’ar is a loner with a talent he doesn’t understand and cannot control, one that threatens all he holds dear.

When the spark of Chaos ignites, miners go missing. But they won’t be the last to vanish. As the cycles of blame whirl through the Borderland, old animosities flare, accusations break bonds, and war looms.

Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands.

Purchase Liars and Thieves HERE

A question for Diana– What was the biggest challenge for writing this story?

Probably making sure that the magic system was consistent and made sense. In the past, my magic system has been very limited (an amulet, a magic book, a single unique skill). This series was much broader with each race having specific skills that vary in individuals. And the skills grow. It’s tricky to make the magic appear logical as well as limited enough that it doesn’t solve every problem.


D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s rainforest with her husband, two dogs, bats, owls, and the occasional family of coyotes.

Connect with Diana:
Website/Blog: http://mythsofthemirror.com
Website/Books: http://dwallacepeachbooks.com
Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Myths-of-the-Mirror/187264861398982
Twitter: @dwallacepeach

Local Author Book Review #16: House of Crows by Edeana Malcolm

Today I’m happy to introduce a historical novel set in the place I call home, Victoria, British Columbia.

Book description:

From a work camp to their shared home with a view of the posh residences along the water’s edge, three generations of women struggle and toil against harsh realities and constant challenges to better their lot in life as they build the future of their family and, along with it, that of a burgeoning city. With two dressed in widow’s weeds and one in a maid’s uniform, their home gains the nickname ‘the House of Crows.’ Edie journeys across oceans, searching for the place where she can build a home. Lucy readies herself for the challenges of a new world, only to suffer loss after loss. Maggie slaves her days away in service to the rich, never losing hope that more awaits her. Interwoven timelines explore the earliest days of Victoria, illuminating the oft-forgotten histories of the women who laid the groundwork for the world we know today.

My review:

With its combination of historical sweep and intimate personal details, this book reminds me of Helen Hooven Santmyer’s novel …And Ladies of the Club. It brings to life the early years of the city of Victoria, British Columbia from the 1850s to the 1890s through the lives of three generations of women. The narrative is carefully structured to present each character’s life in chronological order, but at the same time braids the three together. Transitions from one point of view and time period to another are clearly labelled and not confusing.

The three main characters are distinct and memorable. Scottish immigrant Edie, embittered by a lifetime of toil and disappointment, Lucy the romantic, who finds escape and inspiration in nature, and Maggie, whose hopes for a happy future depend on finding a good husband. Their lives parallel the growth of Victoria from frontier settlement to growing town to capital city. The relations among the social, religious, and ethnic groups are shown as the story unfolds. Judicious use of Scottish pronunciation is incorporated to distinguish Edie’s voice from her daughter’s and granddaughter’s.

Although the story is about three women, the determining factor in all three lives is their husbands. The men’s strengths and weaknesses, their presence and absence, are the challenges to which the women must respond in order to survive and grow. None of these women is a rebel against the social dominance of men, but within the social restrictions of the day, each of them manages to carve her own niche.

Readers familiar or at least acquainted with Victoria and its history will greatly enjoy this book, because of frequent references to real geographical features, streets, structures, people, and events. All readers will find it easy to relate to the women’s struggles, hopes, sorrows and joys.


House of Crows is available in paperback through Amazon stores and from the publisher, Three Ocean Press.

Edeana Malcolm’s blog is called My Writing Eden.

Images for Tales from the Annexe

Pictures for Several Thousand Words, Part 2

Pictures for Several Thousand Words, Part 1, with images for stories from the Herbert West Series, may be found here.

The first two speculative fiction stories in Tales from the Annexe predate my acquaintance with Canva, so I did not have images for them when I began putting this post together. I decided to do something about that, and I am pleased with the results.

Image for Welcome to the Witch House story
As if moving into a dump of a haunted house isn’t bad enough, earnest Frank Elwood discovers conceited math student Walter Gilman already living there, for his own peculiar reasons.
Image for The Deliverer of Delusions story
Miranda Castaigne gives up her romantic life with artistic ex-pats in Paris to discover the truth about her eccentric brother’s death in a New York City lunatic asylum.
Friends Will and Doof investigate a mysterious ice cream truck that cruises their town at night.
Image for The Colour of Magic story
Things get weird when the tenant in Marc’s basement suite insists on painting her bedroom with a very special paint.
Image for A Howling in the Woods story
When Doug’s son Todd keeps playing a recording he’d made in the woods, of a strange howling sound, Doug orders him out of the truck–and into those woods.
Image for The Glamour story
Fifteen-year-old Ann, convinced she was switched at birth with the daughter of a wealthy family, sneaks into their home on the evening of a party.
Image for The Blue Rose story
Deon the Fabricator’s obsession with creating a blue rose leads him to make a perilous journey to the Blasted Lands. His childhood friend, Luna of the City Guard, undertakes a search for him and learns hard truths about love and duty.

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets
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Amaryllis "Apple Blossom" August 2020

Rescue Amaryllis: “Apple Blossom”

Last January I noticed a couple of amaryllis plants on sale in an unlikely place–a building supplies store. They were well past their blooming time, which likely happened before or at Christmas. I bought one.

The label said it was called “Apple Blossom,” white with pink stripes.

Amaryllis "Apple Blossom" Label

On investigating, I found the cute little pot had no drainage hole, and instead of soil, the bulb was stuck into pure peat and nothing else. Clearly, the unfortunate bulb was intended to be a one-bloom-wonder decor item, to be pitched out when the show was over.

I repotted it into a good soil mix in a clay pot. I watered it and watched it grow long floppy leaves. In June, it went outside along with my other amaryllis, a bright scarlet specimen.

By the end of July, both plants were showing signs of approaching dormancy. Their leaves were turning yellow. I reduced watering and prepared to stash them in a cool basement spot for a couple of months’ rest.

“Apple Blossom” had other ideas. First I noticed a couple of new leaves sprouting, and then a bud. I resumed watering. Now it’s in bloom.

Amaryllis "Apple Blossom" August 2020
Amaryllis "Apple Blossom" August 2020
Amaryllis "Apple Blossom" August 2020
Amaryllis "Apple Blossom" August 2020

I’m glad I rescued “Apple Blossom.”

Chronological disclosure: I took the photos and wrote the post between August 15th and 20th. The plant has pretty much finished blooming by now.

Images for Tales from the Annexe

Pictures for Several Thousand Words, Part 1

Somewhere in the process of becoming an indie author, I discovered I enjoy messing around with images. I’m not talking about the photos of my garden I post on the blog. I hardly ever do any post-processing on those.

But ever since I found out about Canva, an easy-to-use graphic design tool, I’ve been creating images to represent my writings. Often, I complete one or more long before I finish writing the novel or story to which they belong. The image-designing process must use different parts of the brain than whatever it is that transforms ideas into words.

When I published four of the stories in Tales from the Annexe as separate ebooks in 2016, I made cover images for them, and I designed the cover image for the collection years before I needed it. More recently, while writing the the new stories that completed the set, I created an image for each of them as well. I didn’t need cover images for these stories, but I did need regular breaks from writing them.

My first idea was to include all these images in the book, but I didn’t want to swell the ebook’s file size to the point it incurred a hefty delivery fee. Moreover, not all e-readers display images in colour. I decided to feature them here on my blog instead.

Below are the images for the first seven stories, which are by-products, off-cuts, spinoffs, or supplements (I haven’t found a congenial word for this concept) to the four novels of my Herbert West Series.

They appear in “chronological” order, i.e., the first three happen during the time period covered by the first novel. The fourth, fifth, and sixth happen between Books 3 and 4 of the series. The last story of this group takes place decades later, following She Who Comes Forth, the novel that’s a kind of sequel to the series.

ebook cover image for The Nexus
A 101-year-old professor reminisces about his most memorable–and dangerous–student.
Image for Fox and Glove story
To win a bet with his friend Alma, librarian Charles Milburn seeks the help of a dead man.
As if a relationship with a part-time necromancer isn’t complicated enough, what if it were more than friendship?
A climb up a hill near Luxor, Egypt leads to an encounter with bandits and supernatural entities.
One of the Fourteen ebook cover image
A chance meeting in a pub brings reformed necromancer Francis Dexter to a perilous realm between life and death.
Image for The Night Journey of F.D. story
Determined to confess one of his worst crimes, Dr. Francis Dexter is subjected to a terrible revenge.
Image for The Final Deadline of A.G. Halsey story
A dying newspaperwoman struggles to figure out what happened to her granddaughter in Luxor, Egypt, and to warn her of threats to her heart and soul.

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets
US UK CA AU DE

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

New Book: Tales from the Annexe

Tales from the Annexe, a collection of fourteen stories, is now available for pre-order.

Seven stories from the world of Audrey Driscoll’s Herbert West Series, followed by seven other tales of illusions, delusions, and mysteries from the edges of logic.

Discover Herbert West’s connections to Egypt, and how a dead man can help solve a mystery.
Share Charles Milburn’s ruminations as he explores another dimension of his friendship with Herbert.
Experience the horror of a long-anticipated revenge.
Sample the treats on offer from the ice cream truck from Hell.
Ride along with a dad who abandons his ten-year-old son in the woods where something howls.
Find out why a woman paints her bedroom a very special colour.
Accompany fifteen-year-old Ann as she tries to prove she belongs to the glamorous family on the other side of town.

These and other curious encounters may be found in this annexe to the ordinary.

Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets
US UK CA AU DE

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe
Garden shed

August-itis

It happens every August. I decide the garden is a mess, a failure and a burden. The season is drawing to a close, and has not lived up to expectations.

This garden looks best in spring and early summer. Given our climate and the Norway maples that shade the place and suck more than their share (so say I) of water and nutrients from the thin, sandy soil, the August decline is inevitable.

dry leaves, drought
Maple leaves that fall before turning colour are often seen in August

Add to that the fact that many plants have achieved their maximum size and leafiness by now, and many of them look weary. Windy days aren’t unusual here, pummeling the plants and making them lean. Many just stay that way, as though resigned, giving the garden an unkempt look. Yellowing leaves on perennials that have been there and done that add to the effect. The gardener, already tired from lugging watering cans and dragging hoses, says, “To Hell with it,” and goes inside to commune with the computer.

I noted at least three major pruning projects that will have to be done sooner rather than later. The magnolia is a hulking monster, despite annual attention with the pruning saw. The trellis is getting shaky. The pond has a bad case of duckweed. Too many plants, such as Russian sage and Japanese anemones, that are in glorious bloom in other (sunny) gardens, barely manage a meager handful of flowers here. Why bother?

The tomatoes are smaller than last year, both in size and number, because of cool weather in June and early July. The plants are showing signs of late blight, so it’s not likely they’ll produce many more tomatoes. Daylilies failed to bloom this year. Nine tenths of an old climbing rose died after being blasted by cold winds in March. My latest (and maybe last) attempt to grow blue poppies has failed. Why bother?

Plants don’t say “Why bother?” They just get on with it.

August-itis is a disease of the gardener, not the garden. Despite failures of individual plants, the garden itself is just fine, going through its annual process. This is the way it’s supposed to look in August, and in fact it looks better this year than it has in Augusts past. There have not been a lot of faded green leaves falling.

When I allow the ideal of green perfection to interfere with my expectations, I regard that normality as a failure. Looking at other gardens, especially the ones perfectly manicured by hired gardeners and watered by elaborate irrigation systems, only intensifies that feeling.

There’s only one cure for August-itis. The gardener must engage with the garden and do something that improves its appearance, even a little. Something straightforward and not too difficult. Clip that lawn edge. Do some deadheading. Cut down the wilted stalks.

After that depressing tour in the glare of noon that concluded with, “To Hell with it,” I took another look at the place late in the day, when the magical light of near-sunset transforms everything. I did a bit of deadheading and a little raking. I noticed buds forming on the Chinese witch hazel. They will bloom in January. I saw a new frond unfurling on a struggling little fern. I topped up the pond and scooped out much of the duckweed.

I noted plants that are looking good.

Hosta "Stained Glass"
Hosta “Stained Glass,” a new addition last autumn, has done well.
Blue lacecap hydrangea
This hydrangea is blooming well due to diligent watering and removal of lilac suckers.
Pink dahlia and Echinops ritro
Old reliables–pink dahlia and Echinops ritro.

I’m on good terms with the garden again. For now, I’ve recovered from August-itis.

Cover Reveal: Tales from the Annexe

Remember those four stories I unpublished a few weeks ago? They’ll be back soon, along with ten others, behind this cover.

Cover image for Tales from the Annexe

Seven stories from the world of Audrey Driscoll’s Herbert West Series, followed by seven other tales of illusions, delusions, and mysteries from the edges of logic.

This collection of fourteen short stories will be available for preorder within the next ten days.

Perennials in the front garden, notably Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria)

Gone for a While

I will be skipping my usual posts for a few weeks while I wrestle hoses and watering cans in the garden, and unruly words and formatting challenges at my desk.

I’ll return clutching a soon-to-be-published story collection, about which I’ll have lots to say in the next few months.

(Actually, I just wanted a reason to feature this photo of my garden gate.)

Side gate between front and back gardens with fern and peach-leaved bellflower

Enjoy the days, be they hazy, crazy, or lazy!